When I graduated high school, I had completed two full years of Spanish class. After deciding on a degree plan in college, I was then required to take two more semesters of a foreign language. Living in Texas and having already studied it for two years, I chose, obviously, Spanish. I passed every class with average to above average grades and my teachers were outstanding. Upon graduating college, I found myself working with many Hispanic-Americans and Spanish was a part of the everyday language. Today, I live about an hour from the Texas/Mexico border, and the community is over 75% Hispanic.
There’s just one problem…I can’t speak a lick of Spanish!
Well, okay, I can speak a few words, but when I head across the border to visit churches or do mission work, I feel like a monkey doing astrophysics! I am completely dependant upon someone else to communicate. “Just smile and wave, boys…smile and wave.” That’s me!
Why is this? I passed all of my classes. My teachers were great, even my Iranian professor was amazing. So, why am I completely ignorant when it comes to Spanish? Simple – those years of 1-hour a day instruction were surrounded by 23 hours a day of English. That isn’t astrophysics…it is simple arithmetic. 23 is greater than 1.
Comparatively, there are 168 hours in a week where the average child spends about 40 hours at school and another 56 sleeping. That leaves parents 72 hours a week with their children to do whatever they please. Of those 72 hours, the average “churched” child attends service 1 hour a week, where, hopefully, they are hearing the Word of God and are being taught sound Biblical truth. That takes us to 71.
Again, simple arithmetic here – 71 is greater than 1.
Just as I cannot expect to become fluent in any language by spending one hour a day studying it and the remaining 23 hours speaking another, we as parents cannot expect our children to learn the truth of God’s word by them half-way focusing on it one hour a week while fully engulfing themselves in the world the remaining 71.
I currently have some parents in my church who absolutely believe their youngest child is going to be a professional athlete. He is on every all-star team, every elite team, every off-season team, in every sport imaginable. Honestly, I haven’t seen him play, but the reality is quite simple…the odds are NOT in his favor. The worse part, in my opinion, is the fact that his two older siblings are drug with the family to every game, practice and/or event. And, you guessed it, Sundays and Wednesdays are prime game/practice days. There goes their 1 hour a week. For them, it’s more like 1 hour a month.
Don’t get me wrong, these kids are great kids, and their parents are good people. I do not desire to judge their spiritual condition. My concern is simple: how long before child one, two or three starts experimenting with drugs or sex or whatever and the parents come to me and say, “Why didn’t you do something?” or “What went wrong?” or “I don’t get it…they were baptized…we go to church!”
It isn’t enough to call Christ “Savior.” He must be “Lord.” Our God is a jealous God and He desires, and, by virtue of the price He paid, deserves everything we have. Parents, we are not called to disciple our children, we are commanded to do so. I have been called to serve in the ministry, working daily with teens and families, but I have not been commanded to do it. Conversely, when it comes to my 8 year old and 1 year old daughters, I have been commanded to teach them who God is and what He did for them through His son, Jesus Christ.
In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, God tells us to pass down the truth of His goodness to our children and grandchildren. He saw the importance of parents sharing their faith with the next generation because He knew that would be the only way the faith would continue to exist. The world…man…is not naturally bent toward faith. We are all born with a sin nature; therefore, our natural course of action is to move away from God. In His infinite wisdom, our Creator chose to use His people, specifically parents, to pass along the message of salvation to the next generation so they would then, in turn, share with the next. It’s a simple plan when executed correctly. As more and more parents choose to neglect their duty to pass down God’s truth to their children, the more our children will become Biblically illiterate and our future generations will become less and less fluent in God’s language.
Simply put, one hour a week at church will not cut it today. It isn’t close to being an adequate defense to what the world offers. As the next generation grows up devoid of the Truth, it won’t be long before an entire generation will be unaware of the goodness of God. Consider the Israelites in Judges, chapter two.
Joshua served the Lord. He took the people of Israel into the Promised Land and made sure they knew of God’s provision and goodness. We read during Joshua’s lifetime, as well as the lifetime of those elders who outlived him, the people served the Lord. They had actually seen God’s hand at work, and, as a result, they served Him. Yet in verse 10 we read that “there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel (KJV).” What does that say? Quite frankly, someone neglected their mandate.
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NIV)
Every week I am surrounded by teenagers who know “not the LORD” and I don’t blame them. I don’t blame the church. I blame mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, great and great, and so on and so on. Now, before you go and yell at me for pointing blame, saying “What gives you the right to blame me?” let me clearly indicate that I write this knowing full well I am susceptible to being a guilty culprit too. I realize this is my legacy if I neglect my Biblical mandate to pass down God’s message to my children. This is a warning to me. But, God’s Word is clear. I’m not pointing blame; I am relaying truth.
Notice the repetitive nature in the passage above. We are instructed to talk about God every moment of every day. We are to write little reminders everywhere to help us remember His goodness. The Good News should be the first thing on our mind when we enter our homes, and the last thing on our mind when we leave. God should be a permanent fixture in our normal, everyday lives, including our homes.
Think of it this way.
How many times do you tell your children NOT to do something? I have a soon-to-be one year old girl, and we are constantly telling her to stay away from the rock fireplace. We pick her up and move her, she returns. We sternly say, “No,” and she returns. We allow her to feel the immovable nature of the rock, and, yet, she returns. However, we continue to pass down that knowledge to her in hopes that one day she will grasp the truth. Proverbs 22:6 is a verse well known to many parents. “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it (NIV).”
It’s the same concept.
Repetitive teaching…a constant reminder of Truth…helps us retain the knowledge necessary to survive not only this world, but live abundantly in eternity. We repeat warning after warning, often times back to back, several times a day, to our children so that they will understand the dangers around them. Why is it we simply acquiesce to the notion that one hour a week at church will do the trick spiritually?
I don’t mean to sound like a broken record or someone with an axe to grind, but, for me, this is eternally important. It is important for you, your children, and your grandchildren. It’s important for the boy your daughter will end up marrying one day. It’s important for everyone, including the posterity and survival of our nation. As the family goes, so does our country.
Parents, if we want our kids to speak a certain language, then we must surround them with it. I mentioned my Iranian teacher in college earlier. Ali spoke seven different languages and he learned them all by immersing himself in the language and culture. He escaped Iran during the revolution and went to Germany. He learned German. From there, he found his way to Russia. He learned Russian. Spain, France and The United States soon followed. What a perfect example of how we should be learning about Christ and passing that knowledge on to our children!
In preparing for his new book, Home-Based Student Ministry: Leading a Student Ministry Focused on the Family, author Ken Lasater found that those parents who wholly accept their role as the sole Biblical teacher of their children believe the role of the youth minister is that of administrator and one who provides leadership possibilities to the students. They contend, “Give us back the discipleship. Let us be the primary spiritual nurturers. God told [US] to do that; we’ll do that – if you will find places for them to serve and to lead.” In fact, Ephesians 4:11-12 gives us a clear understanding of the role of pastors, and it is “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service.” Basically, as one pastor friend of mine put it, we are to work ourselves out of a job.
Psalm 137 poses the question, “How shall we sing the LORD's song in a strange land? (KJV)” Here are a few points I believe will help us all sing to our children.
(1) Prayerfully seek the Lord and His guidance in understanding your Biblical role as parents.
(2) Communicate with other parents your desire in reversing the trend of the church being the “professionals” in teaching your children.
(3) As a group, set up a meeting with your pastor and, if you have one, youth pastor, to discuss your new found understanding.
(4) Require of your pastors to “equip” you with resources so you can follow through with your Biblical mandate.
(5) Sing, Sing, Sing! As Deuteronomy shows us, repeat the Truth all day, every day.
Nothing has been so rewarding in my life than that of becoming a parent. Nothing has been so difficult as well. But, the good news is that God desires our role of “spiritual nurturers” to be one of complete surrender and dependence upon Him. He promises us all the necessary tools to do our job, so, let’s allow Him to do His. Honestly, I make a lousy God and the church is an inadequate parent to your child. We all have our roles to play; and, when we find our spot and join in the work, God’s creation is able to operate as a fine-tuned machine capable of “greater things.” Our children deserve only the best. I don’t know many parents who would disagree with that.